A coordinated federal role in developing a US digital health pass is almost impossible
The idea that the United States could build a standard, nationwide digital health infrastructure over which people could verify their vaccination status is headed for hospice care.
A coalition of 125 vendors and advocacy groups acting as the Good Health Pass Collaborative this week sent a warning to President Joe Biden about the situation. A similar letter was sent to the White House in March, but little or nothing came of it.
As if making the point for the Collaborative, two top-line federal agencies — NASA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — have recently published requests for information on systems capable of digitally verifying the COVID status of their respective employees.
At this point in the Coronavirus pandemic, Collaborative members told the president, the best that can be hoped for in terms of coherent infrastructure might be a nudge from the White House to states to create a standard for what likely will be a crazy quilt of digital health pass initiatives.
In their letter, members of the group admitted being disappointed in what they say is Biden’s out-of-step campaign to rein in COVID’s spread. The administration has mandated shots or COVID tests for federal workers, health care employees and firms with 100 or more employees.
Yet, the nation first needs “a system in place that provides people a reliable, valid way of verifying that they’ve been vaccinated,” according to the group’s statement. Digital ID for those who comply with the mandate is more important, even, than a vaccine mandate.
“We don’t have that yet,” its members concluded. And getting anywhere close is going to be difficult.
In fact, without first creating secure infrastructure to verify proof of vaccination, massive fraud (in the form of bogus health passes) “is all but inevitable” with Biden’s mandate.
That mandate itself is politically unpopular in conservative and anti-vaccination communities, and it will likely be judged by the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court. Looking at those realities, the Collaborative is all but writing off federal action on a health pass.
Instead, it is telling the president his only realistic option now is to aggressively promote “a network of state-run systems.”
In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control is seeking information on ways that contractors could electronically verify test results and vaccine status for the CDC’s 25,000 employees.
A biometric health pass would be needed to meet existing standards for domestic and international travel, as well. It would carry biometrics or a scanned government-issued ID.
CDC officials cite the White House’s vaccination-or-testing mandate as impetus for the request.
Similarly, NASA wants digital verification, including biometric data (primarily, a face photo) in a form that can be displayed upon request.
According to Federal Computer Week, personal data would have to be encrypted and converted to a QR code or some form of color-coded indicator that can be rapidly queried upon request on NASA property.
And earlier this month, Clear announced it will offer digital COVID vaccine certificates to those who receive shots at U.S. drug store chain Rite Aid locations.